For four decades he’s been the priest in charge at “Chicago’s largest African-American Catholic church.” He’s led more than his share of demonstrations and been arrested dozens of times. Barack Obama has praised his “heroic work.” His name: Father Michael Pfleger.
In February of last year, Evan Osnos wrote a love letter to him in the New Yorker. A sample:
Last year, when Spike Lee was preparing to make “Chi-Raq,” about violence in Chicago, he asked Pfleger to introduce him to gang members, parents of slain children, and others. “Father Pfleger is the great facilitator,” Lee told me. “He’s the point guard, with everything coming through him.” Lee copied sentences from Pfleger’s sermons in creating the character of a white priest played by John Cusack. “That character,” Lee said, “is a cross between Father Pfleger and the father that Karl Malden played in ‘On the Waterfront.’ ” When the film came out, Vic Mensa, a Chicago hip-hop artist, criticized the “white savior concept” as “hurtful to our power as dark-skinned people.” Lee responded that that might be true if Cusack’s character didn’t exist, and added, “He would not be there forty years if he’s not the real deal. He’s a living saint, and they’re lucky they got him.”
To be sure, a few paragraphs into the profile Osnos admitted that some Chicagoans “dismiss Pfleger as a huckster who is more interested in getting attention than in working to find solutions.” One top cop calls him “Pfather Pfaker.” Others say he’s “too cozy with City Hall, a moderate posing as a radical.”
But there’s nothing fake about Pfleger’s longtime friendships with two notorious Chicago-based racists and anti-Semites: Obama’s former minister, Jeremiah Wright, and Louis Farrakhan, head of the Nation of Islam. Wright, it will be recalled, became nationally famous during the 2008 election campaign, when the media pored through years of his sermons and found such statements as this: “White folks’ greed runs a world in need.” The Sunday after 9/11, Wright preached: “We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye….America’s chickens are coming home to roost.” Wright accused white scientists of creating the HIV virus in order to commit genocide against people of color. After Obama became president, Wright said his former parishioner hadn’t contacted him because “Them Jews aren’t going to let him talk to me.”
As for Farrakhan, this is the man who famously called Judaism a “gutter religion” and has frequently referred to Jews as “killers.” “These false Jews,” he has preached, “promote the filth of Hollywood that is seeding the American people and the people of the world and bringing you down in moral strength and making evil fair seeming. It’s the wicked Jews, the false Jews that are promoting lesbianism, homosexuality. It’s wicked Jews, false Jews.” In 2015, Farrakhan called on his supporters to murder white people. Addressing Jews in one speech, Farrakhan said: “And don’t you forget, when it’s God who puts you in the ovens, it’s forever!” Even the far-left Southern Poverty Law Center considers the Nation of Islam a hate group.
Asked on TV about his two friends, Pfleger said: “I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit back while you tear down Farrakhan and Jeremiah Wright. How dare you. How dare you. How dare you seek to reduce Jeremiah Wright, who’s one of the greatest Biblical scholars this nation has, to a 30-second sound bite and try to demonize him and trivialize him. You cannot do that.”